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4, 3, 2, 1 … Country Artists You MUST Watch Out For!

4 guys who are making headway in the country music scene with songs “Carolina” and “Musta Had a Good Time,” are not just a band, they’re family. Parmalee, who consists of brothers Matt and Scott Thomas, cousin Barry Knox and childhood best friend, Josh McSwain all play multiple instruments and have a unique country sound that pairs harmonies with a rock vibe. The band has been drawing lots of attention lately, playing major shows like Country Thunder in Arizona (they will also be in the line-up for the Wisconsin show) while continuing their own tour throughout the US. Parmalee has come a long way with their music since the release of their very first EP “Complicated” in 2008, and have fully-recovered from a near-fatal shooting back in 2010 that severely injured drummer, Scott. With passion, motivation, and just damn good talent, Parmalee put themselves back in the game in 2011 and have been climbing faster and faster with each new song they produce. One of the most fun songs from the band, and in country music in general, is “Musta Had a Good Time;” a song the guy’s can really relate to. When just starting out, the band lived all together in one house, and, well … you can only imagine the amount of parties that probably occurred. Seeing a live performance of this song in Arizona I can promise you Parmalee knows how to party, and everyone in the crowd was having a good time. Go to Parmalee Official to check out when you can catch these guys on tour, you will not be disappointed!

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Photo Credit: Ed Rode

3 singer-songwriters, and just cool guys, are Danny Rivera, Fred Stallcup, and Thomas Hewlett who make up the very talented band, Sweetwater Rain. Also performing at this year’s Country Thunder in Arizona, I got to witness first hand the amount of strength these musicians have both vocally and instrumentally. Their current hit, “Starshine” is a true indication of the grasp they have on country music and their delivery is totally rock and roll. Watching these guy’s perform it was hard not to rush the stage and party with them, an idea that band-member, Fred responded to, saying “I wish everyone could have just come up on stage with us, we love to make it a party.” I had the chance to catch up with Sweetwater Rain and have to say how genuinely awesome these guys are. Quite the jokesters, the band told me about their experience at Country Thunder saying “next time we’re just going to perform in the campgrounds with everyone,” (something fans should watch out for if you’re going to the show in Wisconsin in July). In between laughs we also discussed their writing and co-writing with producer Anthony Smith, who the guys’ say is “a real talented songwriter and producer, when we first met (Smith) we knew we couldn’t pass up the chance to work with him.” Recording their first album, Thomas also says he and Danny are “so proud of Fred,” who is producing some of the tracks for the album himself (and learning Twitter). Fred told me that switching from musician to producer is difficult saying, “when you’re so attached to something it’s hard to make it perfect, you don’t want to cut anything out, and trying to decide what’s best for the album and not just for the band is really tough.” Sweetwater Rain definitely nailed it with their song “Starshine,” a track that the band says “gives a good mix of emotion,” and really “shows off their strengths” in instrumentals, harmonies, and vocals. They also added “it was so fun to make the video for that song, a little whimsical, a little weird, but also getting across a great message.” A new song that the band agrees is “needed at a time like this” (reflecting on the tragedies in both Boston and West Texas) is entitled “Pray for Me,” they went on to say how “important” it is for songs like this to be played and how “proud” they are of it, and their new album. Looking forward to my promised visit from Sweetwater Rain in Florida, and of course their new music and tour dates. *ON THE RECORD* these three guys are really incredible, and are going to do great, great things in country music… they already are! (and you can quote me on that @SweetwaterRain). Sweetwater Rain Official

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2 of the best-looking and most-talented men in country music are Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker-Liles of Love & Theft. I know I don’t need to go on and on about how good they are, but I’m going to. Seeing these guys live is always a blast; they love what they do and continue to put out great music. Coming off an ACM Nomination (which they should’ve won,) “Running Out of Air” single, and starting their new tour with Brantley Gilbert and Tim McGraw in May, life for Love & Theft is a busy one. The duo tells me they also have a new single “If You Ever Get Lonely” that they are “real excited for,” as well as opening up for former American Idol winner, Phillip Phillips, a title they both agree, contestant Kree Harrison, should take home this season, saying “we love Kree, she works (or worked) in our favorite bar in Nashville and she’s just an awesome girl, we really hope she wins.” The guys also told me how much they love living in Nashville, calling it “their favorite town in the whole world!” … (But Stephen says he’s never been to Bora Bora though.) Love & Theft also shared with me their excitement for their first ever club dates on the west coast, saying “we’ve been doing this for 7 years and it’s weird that it’s taken this long but we couldn’t be more excited.” In discussing obstacles they’ve had to overcome as a duo, Eric says “the hardest thing to do is be patient, we have a lot of friends in this business and sometimes they’ll just shoot to the top and it’s hard not to get jealous of that, but we’ve been blessed with what we’ve been able to do and are continuing to do;” and Stephen added, “slow and steady wins the race, and we’re making legitimate fans that will be with us for the long haul, and we’re still doing it and we’ll keep doing it because of them.” These guys really are all about their fans, every performance they do is fun and enjoyable and to be able to see real talent really care about what they do is unmatched by a lot of other artists in not just country music but music in general. There is a lot Love & Theft have to look forward to but Stephen says he’s most excited for their new single, giving me the inside scoop that this track is “really different, it’s got a lot of emotion, and is personally my favorite mixed record on the album.” Both the guys are anxious to see how the track does, Eric noting that “timing is everything with these songs, and we really hope this one sails up the charts.” Speaking of sailing… I somehow got myself into a handshake-bound contract to go in on the future (long future) purchase of a yacht with both Eric and Stephen, and one of my best friends during the interview; but I know with the amount of success these guys are going to have they’ll be buying their own in no time. You can catch Love & Theft out on “the best tour (they’ve) ever been on” with their “idol” Tim McGraw kicking off in May in Birmingham, AL. Look out for their new single said to release sometime in June, and just keep these guys in your sights because they truly deserve all of the good things coming to them. Love & Theft Official

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1 person could only win The X Factor and I am so glad it was Tate Stevens. From concrete cowboy to major recording artist, Stevens has been in popular demand these days. With his newest single “Holler if You’re With Me” blazing the big screen in a Pepsi commercial during the Grammy’s, and the release of his first debut album, which comes out tomorrow (April 23rd) it’s hard to imagine the whirlwind that has been Tate’s life since his big reality-show win. But, just like the gentleman he was on the FOX show, Tate says he has been nothing but “humbled” by this whole experience. The husband, father, musician (in that order) tells me “obviously things have changed but only for the better.” Despite his jump in popularity Stevens says he is still “not cool” in the eyes of his daughter, saying she still sees him as “plain old Dad,” but adds “I am cool to all of her friends though because I met One Direction.” He also told me a story about his son who constantly keeps him in check, saying “little things like asking for a bottle of water turns into ‘Tate Stevens can’t get his own water now?’” So it’s safe to say the Steven’s family has stayed pretty grounded even though “Dad” is a big star. Living in Kansas City, MO Tate says he has been “overwhelmed by the amount of support from his hometown,” and notes “they even painted the water tower for me, and I can’t tell you how much of an honor that was.” Stevens’ hometown also managed to sell out his first tour date in a matter of 29 minutes … not even 30. His album is something that is very near and dear to his heart, having had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with his “lifelong idol” Joe Diffie. Along with Diffie, Tate also worked with producer Blake Chancey and co-wrote 3 of the 11 songs on the album. Other notable contributors are Jeremy Bussey, Bradley Gaskin, and Marcus Franklin Johnson who are responsible for the single, “ Power of a Love Song,” a song which Tate says, “truly represents what type of artist he is and just gives a great message.” I had the chance to preview his new album and without giving away any spoilers I can tell you it’s going to be a hugely successful record. Artists like John Rich and David Lee Murphy also appear on some of the tracks and all in all it is a prime example of what country music should be. I look forward to seeing Tate live at Joyland (Bradenton FL) on May 2nd, and for all of his other tour dates and a really cool contest check out Tate Stevens Official.

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So there you have it, 4 of the best acts to watch out for in country music. Seriously, if you haven’t already started downloading, pre-ordering, you-tubing their songs you have my permission to stop reading this and go check it out right now. Absolutely amazing things are happening for  all of the artists mentioned and as country music fans it is our job to go out and support each and every one of them. Buy your tickets and catch them on tour, and if you get the chance, just hang out with them… great musicians, and even better guys, country should be proud to have them in the family.

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